Science and History of Shipwrecks


Check out the video below of Marie Zahn’s talk from Please Tuesday, January 25th from 7pm-8pm as she discussed the Science and History of Shipwrecks: Archaeology and Conservation and answered audience questions!

The journey of an artifact from the past into the present.  When it comes to shipwrecks, archaeologists have a potential time capsule of the past.  It’s a safe assumption to claim that most shipwrecks happen unintentionally – all of the objects on board, from the parts of the ships themselves to the cargo and personal items of the crew, sink together.  What you have is a single slice of history preserved in one place.  A small moment in time captured unexpectedly.  This discussion into the world of underwater archaeology focusses on the challenges of artifact conservation and the effects of different underwater environments on ships and their artifacts.  See how material objects deteriorate and decay over time by looking at shipwrecks from diverse time periods throughout history as well as spanning the globe in terms of construction and final resting places – from ancient Greece to pirate treasure!

Marie Zahn, a Cape Cod native, is the Director of the Brooks Academy Museum and A. Elmer Crowell Decoy Barn Museum for the Harwich Historical Society, as well as serving as the Administrator for the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. Prior to this, she spent several years working on an early 18th century shipwreck as an archaeologist, conservator, and science education coordinator.  When she’s not talking about history, Marie volunteers as a Solar System Ambassador for NASA, acting as a liaison between the space agency and the public, spreading awareness of current and upcoming NASA missions and sharing news about ongoing work in the space sciences and space exploration.  Marie’s work in science and archaeology has given her a unique perspective and appreciation for history. She believes that history is a continuous narrative, and that it is of the utmost importance to make connections between the past and where we are today. Marie aims to make science open, inclusive, and accessible to anyone that’s curious about the past, present, and future.

Cape Cod and New England Shipwreck Reading List:

Shipwrecks of Cape Cod: Stories of Tragedy and Triumph by Don Wilding

Dangerous Shallows: In Search of the Ghost Ships of Cape Cod by Eric Takakjian and Randall Peffer

The Wreck of the Portland: A Doomed Ship, a Violent Storm, and New England’s Worst Maritime Disaster by J. North Conway

The Palatine Wreck: The Legend of the New England Ghost Ship by Jill Farinelli

The Sol e Mar tragedy off Martha’s Vineyard by Captain W. Russell Webster (U.S. Coast Guard, Ret.) and Elizabeth B. Webster

Disaster off Martha’s Vineyard: The Sinking of the City of Columbus by Thomas Dresser

The Anthology of Cape Cod Shipwrecks by Donald L. Ferris

Storms and Shipwrecks of New England by Edward Rowe Snow; updated by Jeremy D’Entremon

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger

Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her by Barry Clifford with Paul Berry

Exploring the Waters of Cape Cod: Shipwrecks & Dive Sites: The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving & Shipwreck Locations around Cape Cod & the Islands by Donald L. Ferris

The Pirate Prince: Discovering the Priceless Treasures of the Sunken Ship Whydah: An Adventure by Barry Clifford with Peter Turchi

Cape Cod Maritime Disasters: A Collection of Photographs of Maritime Accidents Around Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard by William P. Quinn

Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II

Shipwrecks around New England: A Chronology of Marine Accidents and Disasters from Grand Manan to Sandy Hook by by William P. Quinn

Shipwrecks on Cape Cod: The Story of a Few of the Many Hundred Shipwrecks Which Have Occurred on Cape Cod by Isaac M. Small

Great Storms and Famous Shipwrecks of the New England Coast by Edward Rowe Snow


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